CLOSE ENCOUNTERS – A school open day is a vital part of the process of choosing a school. Who gives the tour, what you’re shown and how questions are answered will tell you a lot. Read on for the most important dates for your diary this autumn.
EASING THE TRANSITION
Transferring from junior to senior school can be an exciting and anxious time for children and parents, as year 7 brings big changes – more pupils, teachers, buildings, challenges and fun. The quickest to adapt are usually those who ask questions and cope well with the odd mistake.
Junior schools prepare children by gradually giving them more independence and responsibility. Parents should consider letting children travel unaccompanied, giving them responsibility for a simple mobile phone, practising the school runs and making introductions to others already at the senior school. Attending parental transition meetings and taking children to induction days are critical.
Once at the new school, the most important thing parents can do is listen, be supportive and encourage children to find their own solutions. Establish consistent work and organisational habits at home, as positive habits will support achievement throughout secondary school. Don’t worry if your child is not top of the class, captain of the team or leader in the orchestra as they are now a bigger fish in an even bigger pond.
Transition can be harder for parents than children, so parents need to let go, stand back and allow their offspring to fly.
BRACE YOURSELVES… THE HOLIDAYS ARE COMING
Half term is in sight and beyond that Christmas, and the faces of parents on the school gate are already wearing a haunted look. How will you cope? Panic not.
When my kids were little, half term and the end of term featured an exhausted teacher who felt she was entitled to her own break. No circus camp for them. I was of the mind that as long as I made their friends welcome and fed them, my part in the deal was at an end.
In those days only one child could sit at the computer at a time so they built dens in the garden, spent happy hours making perfume from flowers, served up weird “cocktails” made of mud, set up aerial runways for an army of doomed toys, created tsunamis of warm icing that trickled across every kitchen surface and made mysterious maps.
Neither one got to grade 8 on the Japanese nose flute or played for the England cricket team, yet somehow they’ve turned out to be lovely, happy people with good jobs. I love school holidays!
MAKING THE MOVE
In January 2015, King’s College School announced that it was opening its senior school to 11+ entry. This has allowed increased accessibility to the school for all 11-year-olds, regardless of whether they previously attended independent or state junior schools. In the first year of applications, high-quality candidates came from both sectors, and exam results were virtually indistinguishable between the two cohorts.
The 11+ entrance point is incredibly competitive, so parents should select schools carefully to suit the needs of their own child. Entering a child for eight, nine or even ten different schools leads to a very demanding autumn and spring for a ten-year-old, and doesn’t increase the chance of getting an offer. Choosing a suitable school is difficult, so visits are a must. The feel of a school can only be assessed by seeing it in action.
GETTING THE MOST OUT OF SCHOOL VISITS
When choosing a school, visiting in person can be a powerful tool and can often alter opinions formed from other sources such as league tables or school websites.
You might be impressed by grounds and facilities, but try to stay focused on what is important for the development of your child’s needs. Don’t discount first impressions or the “feel” you get for a school. Visit on a normal school day rather than an open day to gain a truer view of school life and observe how staff and children interact. Speak to teachers, pupils and the head teacher. Ideally, visit and compare several schools, then carefully consider all the different aspects that matter to you – academic, social, sporting, ethical, location – before making up your mind.
Remember: the “best school” is always the school that best suits your child, where they will feel comfortable and motivated.
CHOOSING A TUTOR
Tutoring is a controversial topic. The truth is that some children need to build their confidence and tutoring can help with this. Seeing old exam papers and being given the tools needed to answer questions, whether in maths, English or reasoning, is always a positive move when it comes to exam season.
Your child has to like their tutor and form a bond with them. The tutor/ child relationship must be built on trust; a child is never going to admit they are baffled by something if they fear being told off. In addition, parents must be able to approach a tutor with questions and concerns, and the tutor should take the time to put parents and children at ease.